Lodge describes the figurative element of irony as saying the opposite of what you really mean and also “inviting an interpretation different from the surface meaning of your words.” It makes the reader think deep into the work and be open to a range of interpretations. In his chapter, Lodge explains two types of irony: verbal and dramatic. Verbal irony is basically sarcasm while dramatic irony is when the reader knows more than the characters do.
The very first time I noticed irony in the novel was reading the title. Since the novel is based on a Vietnamese family struggling to live under the corrupt communist regime, it seems ironic for it to be called a paradise. Which is why the author adds the word ‘blind’ to show that the leaders of this regime are blind and cannot see the damage they are causing to their country.
As mentioned earlier, dramatic irony is revealed when the reader knows more about the facts of the situation than the character does. Uncle Chinh believes that communism will help his country of Vietnam and that it is the best government to live under in terms of development. In a dialogue with Que he tells her to “choose: a future with the revolution or the life of an outcast among the enemies of the people.” (32) He is convinced that this regime is the only way for Que to actually help Hang and her family, “it is precisely because I worry about Hang’s future.” (51) This is ironic because although Uncle Chinh believes living under communism is their best decision, the reader is more aware of the terrors and negative impacts that arise. Therefore the overall concept of communism is used very ironically in the novel. Although this regime was supposed to provide equality and freedom for all citizens, it actually took away these rights. The Vietnamese were against communism since they were struggling economically and could not live a good life. However, it is ironic that even though Uncle Chinh was Vietnamese, he went against these beliefs and still supported their corrupt government no matter what.
One of the most valued characteristics of Vietnamese culture is respecting the importance of family. Therefore in the novel, Hang’s mother Que cared very much for her brother and was willing to do anything to help him out. However it is ironic how she cares so deeply for him that she was willing to sacrifice her happiness and even starve rather than care for her own daughter and sister in law. It is also ironic how she continues to support Uncle Chinh although he was just making their lives harder by accepting the corrupt regime. Hang’s mother would always say when they were put in a difficult situation, “to live with dignity, the important thing is to never despair. You give up once and everything goes away.” (14) Hang learned from her mother to be selfless and care for others especially when it came to family. However, it is ironic how Hang was “preparing to abandon her uncle” (14) and even at the end of the novel, she leaves Vietnam after her mother and aunt had done everything they could fighting for their family.
Lodge’s interpretation of irony is also demonstrated in the novel, when Hang talks a lot about how she hates her uncle but still goes to visit him in Moscow. She says, “my cheeks burned and the heat I felt for my uncle rose in me.” (16) In the very beginning of the novel Hang receives a telegram from her uncle saying that he is “very ill. Come immediately” (11). Hang immediately goes to visit him but then finds out he was never really sick, and this was all just a trick for her to come to Moscow. It is ironic however, that at the end of the novel, Uncle Chinh becomes terribly ill and dies from his sickness.
Irony adds to the novel Paradise of the Blind since it helps the reader further understand the meaning and develop suspense. It also helps in understanding the characters’ choices and motivations and why they did these things. This allows the reader to have an insight towards the characters’ personalities and the basics of Vietnamese culture. It also helps develop one of the main themes behind the novel, that communism had a negative impact on Vietnamese society in which it abandoned traditional values and tore families apart.